SUV-ival of the fittest

Volvo’s new all-wheel drive dom­i­nates the pack, writes PAUL GOVER

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test Volvo Xc60 -

AUS­TRALIANS are gorg­ing on a feast of qual­ity SUVs. The all-wheel-drive wagon menu has never been tastier, more var­ied or more sat­is­fy­ing. This week’s test is the Volvo XC60, of­fi­cially Aus­tralia’s safest new car, but I can­not as­sess the Swedish SUV without think­ing of all the new­com­ers — the Nis­san Mu­rano, Audi Q7, the lat­est Lexus RX — as well as such bench­mark cars as the Volk­swa­gen Tiguan, Re­nault Koleos, Mazda CX-7 and even the Toy­ota RAV4. It’s a lot to con­sider — and to di­gest. So, to get to the bot­tom at the top, the XC60 is one of the very best.

It’s not as flashy as the Mu­rano or as sporty as the CX-7, and it can­not re­ally go off-road or beat the Tiguan for value.

But noth­ing in the SUV line-up can top the class in ev­ery sub­ject, so the Volvo scores solidly in ev­ery area, tak­ing it to a classlead­ing re­sult. And, as you ex­pect, it has Volvo safety. The XC60 fol­lows sev­eral ear­lier XC ef­forts, in­clud­ing the gi­ant 90, as one of the lat­est ar­rivals in the SUV pack. It edged out its clos­est com­peti­tor to­day, the Ger­man Q5, but not by much.

Arriving late means Volvo has had a lot of time to do its work on the 60. The re­sult is a ve­hi­cle built up from a su­per-sturdy ba­sic body, then tweaked with ev­ery­thing from lux­ury leather and classy sound to a cou­ple of im­pres­sive en­gines and all the safety stuff — in­clud­ing a City Safety sys­tem de­signed to pre­vent low-speed city smacks, with driver warn­ing and au­to­matic brak­ing in­ter­ven­tion.

The range, as do so many diesel-driven Euro brands th­ese days, opens with a tur­bod­iesel XC60 from $57,950 and works up to the 3-litre T6 with a petrol in-line six-cylin­der.

But a lot more can be added to fluff the pil­lows and pad the bot­tom line.

The XC60 has the po­ten­tial to be­come Volvo’s best­seller in Aus­tralia, though the num­bers are tak­ing a while to build. Only 116 were de­liv­ered last month, against 154 for the XC90 and 140 for the Q5, but sup­plies are tight around the world and it’s go­ing to take a while to fill the pipe­line.

To put the XC60 into per­spec­tive, it’s a mid­sized SUV — think Holden Cap­tiva or Hyundai Santa Fe— but with a big-car feel. Its spec­i­fi­ca­tion puts it solidly into the lux­ury SUV cat­e­gory, which in­cludes the Lexus, Range Rover, Benz ML and Porsche Cayenne.

The dif­fer­ence is it’s priced sen­si­bly — less than $60,000 to start with. Even the ba­sic tur­bod­iesel has all the sus­pen­sion, trans­mis­sion and safety stuff you’ll need.

I pre­ferred the diesel to the petrol six dur­ing a drive from Can­berra over the Alps to Al­bury, and it would still be the car I would try first. But diesel prices move around, many are not con­vinced of the green cre­den­tials, the grotty pumps are a turn-off and you need to run more than 30,000km a year to get the real ben­e­fits.

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